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5G’s role in a smarter, safer world


Covid-19 is impacting our lives in ways we’ve previously thought unimaginable. And it’s sometimes difficult to see where we as people, societies and economies go from here. Where is the ‘What’s next?’ What shape will it take? And when?

As our own CEO Rajeev Suri observed a few days ago, as we face the biggest public health emergency in generations, governments, businesses, NGOs, communities and individuals are doing all they can to keep people safe and economies resilient.

And even in these toughest of times, policymakers and business leaders continue to express their confidence in the future and how we’ll emerge stronger and better able to deal with such a challenge. 

The question that falls to us in our industry is, what can we do? Here, inside our Enterprise business at Nokia, I have found myself asking more and more in recent days: “How will our work in 5G contribute to a smarter, more resilient and safer world?”

The answer may be to double down on what we and many of our Enterprise customers are already doing. After all, by harnessing the move to 5G, we’re already helping to digitalize certain industries so that they not only meet their needs more effectively, but also serve society as a whole.

Manufacturing and Supply Chain

Think first about the complex world of advanced manufacturing and global supply chains. Across manufacturing, we’ve seen how some companies have switched from making scents to sanitizer, sneakers to N95 masks, and F1 cars to respirators. These are important transitions – but they take time to implement. And while time in business is a valuable commodity, in a health crisis, it’s a vital one.

5G has the ability to give connected enterprises the flexibility and adaptability that provides the gift of time. With 5G the digitalization of industries will reduce time to design and build, as well as the agility to change production in line with Industry 4.0. A connected enterprise has flexibility to quickly retool and change systems on demand.

And, that ‘change on demand’ can also mean using automation and remote operation to rapidly increase output, improve employee safety and help ensure the business continuity that’s fundamental to production and distribution of essential products and services.

‘Time to market’ is just as important as ‘time to manufacture.’ 5G will enable rapid deployment of new supply chains and logistic modes, connecting manufacturers with their suppliers faster and more directly. 5G will also help aggregate vast amounts of data from multiple, dispersed sources for better insight into operational status and also for new levels of supply chain visibility and transparency – an attribute that could prove highly valuable in pandemic tracing.

Cities and Public Safety

Step out of the enterprise and into our cities. Urban areas, with their high population densities, have proven to be the epicenter of Covid-19 outbreaks and 5G could bring new ways to inform citizens, connect services and enhance public safety.

In some countries, illegal gatherings and commuter crowding have created challenges for authorities. The combination of 5G and analytics can predict ‘hot spots’ and, with appropriate intervention, prevent crowds from gathering. As we have seen in our work with Sendai, where drones are being trialed in situations of disaster prevention and mitigation, there’s lots of potential for their use in public safety.

Why is this important? With a more automated approach to prevention, emergency services are kept safe and freed up to concentrate on urgent matters. This is all part of a new, integrated approach to smarter cities – where 5G-enabled data transfer and analytics can be applied to information about transport and public services in a dynamic way. This enables city leaders to take a more holistic view of situations and marshal services in real time.

One key service is social care, which becomes an urgent issue in time of pandemic. 5G holds great potential to improve protection and inclusion, and thus reduce stress and anxiety, for those in vulnerable circumstances. Through video links and remote monitoring, much is already in progress to transform social care, but Covid-19 has highlighted the need to accelerate the capabilities and deployment of such systems.


Of course, this pandemic is not exclusively a business issue or solely an urban problem. It is first and foremost a public health issue. Much is already predicted for 5G’s impact on healthcare, with HD quality telemedicine and mobile health destined for major advances. But there are technologies currently in use that could potentially transform with 5G.

Thermal cameras are already in use at airports as a preliminary diagnostic tool. In fact, our engineers have collaborated with partners to create a new camera-based solution that uses bespoke software and artificial intelligence to take the temperature of 20 people every 30 milliseconds. In the future, 5G could take this technology’s potential further, enabling greater functionality, and with permission, access to other relevant data that assists prevention and diagnosis.

And on the front-line, as temporary large-scale hospitals are switched on, newly developed plug-and-play 5G systems can be instantly deployed to enable campus-wide connectivity boosting healthcare efforts.

Away from city centers, the transformative power of fast wireless connectivity has greatest potential in remote and challenging environments. A global pandemic sharpens focus on bridging the digital divide, giving all citizens access to up to date information and adequate healthcare, no matter where they live. 

In Kenya, prompted by the Covid-19 outbreak, the government has approved Alphabet’s Loon launch of internet balloons that will enable Telekom Kenya to provide remote clinics with wireless access to national referral hospitals and other medical facilities. 

I’m proud that Nokia is working with Loon as part of the HAPS Alliance, focused on bringing connectivity to the unconnected in remote and challenging environments.

The Now – and the Next

Of course, on a daily basis, we continue to deal with the ‘now’. In doing so, taking note of what Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens recently wrote: “Many short-term emergency measures will become a fixture of life. That is the nature of emergencies. They fast-forward historical processes.”

5G is an important part of fast-forwarding our business and personal lives. For now, we need to endure this pandemic, but as we come out the other side, we have a great ally in 5G. A faster, smarter world will stand stronger should we need to face this type of challenge again. 

To find out more about how Nokia is helping our customers and playing our part in the fight against coronavirus, please visit:

Share your thoughts on this topic by joining the Twitter discussion with @nokiaindustries using #5G #AI #enterprise #IoT #smartcity #teamnokia #GoAllwhere #healthcare #COVID19

Karl  Bream

About Karl Bream

A gifted public speaker and passionate leader, Karl serves as Vice President of Corporate IoT Strategy at Nokia. Karl holds a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from George Washington University and an MBA from The Stern School at New York University. In his spare time, Karl is an active supporter of several local non-profits and social ventures in and around New York City and frequently travels internationally to build housing for the homeless in the most challenging geographies.

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